Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services
Yellowknife (Jun 11/01) - The federal government is being asked to invest $235 million in First Nations education programs and a complete geological survey of the Northwest Territories.
The announcement came at the urging of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, in Yellowknife for a three-day conference to discuss their report and ways for First Nations to participate more fully in resource developments.
The National Round Table is a Crown agency made up of representatives from environmental protection groups, First Nations, industries, universities and non-governmental agencies.
Much of the focus of the conference was on providing First Nations a fair share of billions of dollars of investment in diamond mining, natural gas exploration and pipeline construction over the next 30 years.
"The biggest barrier to progress is the capacity of aboriginal Canadians to participate in these activities," said Dave McGuinty, president of the national round table.
The report, entitled Aboriginal Communities and Non-renewable Resource Development, calls for several key funding initiatives from the federal government.
It urges the government to spend $65 million over 10 years to provide NWT First Nations with skills and employment training.
It also suggests another $5 million be spent on a promotional program to impress upon First Nations in the NWT the value of education and training, and another $60 million over 10 years for a state-of-the-art adult education program.
The largest sum of money being asked for was a $100-million investment in the Geological Survey of Canada.
"Less than one per cent of the entire Arctic has been surveyed at a level which allows for mineral exploration," McGuinty explained.
Ted Blondin, who sits on the Dogrib Treaty 11 council, said he believes the federal government will likely accept the round table's recommendations.
"I think this national round table is a high profile body," Blondin said.
Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew, who was in Ottawa during the conference, said the government is looking at ways to allocate funding suggested in the Round Table's recommendations.